Wallace State-Oneonta CDL program helping students hit the road

By: ,

Wallace State CDL students Kalob Suttles, left, and Donnie McKay, with instructor Ben Matanane. Suttles and McKay are two recent graduates of the CDL program offered through Wallace State’s Oneonta Center. Wallace State offers CDL classes in Blount, Cullman and Winston Counties.

HANCEVILLE — Some of the first graduates of the Commercial Driver License (CDL) program taught through the new Wallace State Community College-Oneonta Center are looking forward to hitting the road and starting new careers.

Kalob Suttles, Jeremy Deale, Samuel Schwitz and Donnie McKay each recently completed the four-week program, earning their chance to begin working in a field that is looking to fill an ever-expanding need for drivers to haul consumer products all around the United States.

Suttles, of Blountsville, was a concrete foreman with a construction company before choosing to follow his father’s path and become a truck driver. He said his father, Lonnie Suttles, chose Wallace State when he decided to get his CDL license. After some research of his own, Suttles followed his father’s recommendation, taking classes out of the Oneonta Center that opened last year.

CDL Trainer and Tester Ben Matanane was one of the main reasons Suttles said he chose Wallace State, along with the fact that the college has some of the newest equipment to train on. “Ben was a great teacher and instructor,” Suttles said. “He really helped me and had a lot of patience.”

McKay said he researched CDL programs for about a year before choosing Wallace State. “Wallace State seemed to be the best program,” said McKay, who lives in St. Clair County and works at a body shop. He said he was impressed with what he discovered during his research. “I wasn’t disappointed,” he said.

McKay said Matanane is great at his job and made sure he and his fellow classmates were prepared for taking their tests and hitting the road.

Schwitz, of Cullman, described Matanane as methodical. “He’s well-versed in what he does.”

As an amputee, Schwitz said he had to go through a little red tape, but with more trucking companies using trucks with automatic transmissions, he’s had no problem with finding work

“I’ve had 70 job offers,” he said. “That’s how badly they need truck drivers right now.”

Schwitz has chosen to be an over-the-road driver, where he’ll be home for six days out of the year. One of the job offers he’s considering pays $65,000 a year.

Suttles is getting in some driving time partnering up with his father for a little while, but he’ll soon be working for another company. Matanane helped with that as well. “He got me in touch with a recruiter,” Suttles said of Matanane’s help with job placement.

McKay is contemplating several job offers, but is sticking to regional work so he can be home with his family more often.

Deale, of Center Point, took CDL classes at Wallace State after hearing about it for a co-worker at UPS who went through the program. Like the others, he’d been told that Matanane was a great instructor and found it to be true. He also appreciated having classes in Oneonta, which saved him a long drive.

With his CDL license, Deale said he will begin driving the big UPS trucks that transport products to distribution centers and be in line of a “serious pay raise.”

Day and evening and weekend classes are offered through Wallace State’s CDL program, with new classes starting every four weeks. Classes are available in Blount, Cullman and Winston counties. For more information, go to www.wallacestate.edu/cdl or call 256-352-7826.